London Design Biennale - Fragmentario - Venezuela

La Rentrada

[noun, French]
1. To return. The return of holidaymakers to the capital.
2. Resumption of activities (of some institutions), after an interruption. The return to parliament.

La Rentrada seeks to imagine the return of the Venezuelan diaspora to their home country. An event that will be marked by the need to establish new realities and a radical questioning of previous normals.

Those who return, influenced by their experiences abroad, do so with a different perception. While a shift in mindset occured also in those who never left. Things will never be the same, even if they are, because the perceptions changed.

For many years, the economy of Venezuela has depended virtually completely on oil. La reentrada proposes a new material, one that is free and readily available: avocado seeds.

Once only found in areas with tropical climates, avocados are now increasingly (and controversially) ubiquitous. An unlikely survivor of the Cenozoic era and praised by their taste and nutritional properties, avocados are ever-present, notwithstanding their luxury status (already in 1914, the price for one avocado in the U.S. would be equivalent to $24.90 in 2018).

La rentrada builds from the previous projects of Fragmentario, Ahuacatl and Rosa Terráqueo. The first, an exploration of circular economies by using avocado seeds provided by local restaurants in NYC to color deadstock silk fibers and create a garment collection. The second, an exploration of water quality through the lense of natural dyes, by using local avocado seeds and water samples from around the world to create different hues on deadstock fabrics and create a garment collection and a nomadic society, perpetually traveling like the avocados.

In recent years, avocado seeds have gained popularity due to their dyeing capabilities: they yield a blush tone onto fabric, which, due to the high tannins it contains, is highly dependable. There is however, other uses and posibilities. Due to the composition of the seed, it also lends itself to the production of biopolimers. By using different seaweed binders, it is possible to create pink tinted bioplastics and an adobe-like material, which can be used to make bricks and containers.

La rentrada presents different objects made with avocado seeds and the ideas that made them, with the intention to propose alterantive economies and methods of production and question ideas of material possibilities that can be used as a metaphor to understand also the evolutionary quality of people. It borrows its name from the French rentrée and transforms it into Spanish, a wink at the transformative possibilities explored through the avocado and that of those who return.

A compilation of objects from La Rentrada (images are of work in progress).

Bioplastic developed using seaweed and avocado seeds (images are of work in progress).

Biocomposites developed using avocado seeds and seaweed as a binder (images are of work in progress).

An ultimate goal of La Rentrada is to build an edification using the materials from the project.

Said edifications have been inspired by alternative construction schools of though such as the Eartship movement that use upcycled materials for home-building.

The accompanying photo shows work in progress towards building a small model home that could become a conceptual home and eventually a true home (work in progress).

Along with building edifications, La Rentrada seeks to reimagine the future version of markers of a civilization.
[noun] The stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced.

[noun] A member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.
A civilization is any complex society characterized by:
  • Urban development,
  • Social stratification imposed by a cultural elite
  • Symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems)
  • A perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.

Why avocados? - Global

In recent years, avocados have become incredibly popular. In the U.S. alone, the yearly per capita consumption of avocados has increased from 1 pound in 1989 to 7 pounds in 2016.

There is then a considerable offering of avocado seeds around the world, which can be obtained for free by partnering with restaurants to collect their this byproduct of their offering.

The popularity of the avocado is also quite controversial, due to the collateral effects its high demand has brought. This can work as an opportunity to start these conversations.
Why avocados? - Venezuela

  • Heritage: There is written record of avocados in Venezuela since the early years of the colonization period. The earliest register is in 1567.
  • Terrain: Together with pineaple, avocados areone of the fruits with the greatest sowing capacity at the national level. There is then considerate access to the fruit, and its seed.
  • Economy: There is a real need for Venezuela to develop alternative economies beyond the oil sector. Working with avocado seeds will be a first step in hopefully opening the eyes of the collective consciousness of the country about alternative possibilities.


Ahuacatl seeks to explore the opportunities of circular economies by using alternative production methods and to activate conversations about waste in the food and textile industries.

Since 2017, Fragmentario has partnered with various New York based restaurants to collect their avocado seeds that would otherwise become waste and used them instead to deadstock silk and linen fabrics.

The project borrows its name from the word for avocado used by Aztecs in México before the colonization of the Americas. It was transformed into “aguacate” by the Spanish colonizers and then evolved into the English word “avocado”.

Rosa Terráqueo
Rosa Terráqueo is a textile exploration of water quality through the lens of botanical dyes. Avocado seeds and a variety of water samples from around the world, each with its own level of alkalinity and mineral content, are used to produce a spectrum of pink tones.

The project seeks to visually illustrate the significance of water quality and to question how these variables affect our environments and ourselves. Its name is a nod to the global nature of the waters used for the project and the diverse pink hues obtained with them.

Water Inspired Music

Avocado Inspired Music

Entrelazadito 1
Since 2017, Pombo has worked with a technique that she has defined as "entralazado", the Spanish word for both textile interweaving and interleaving, a technique in computing used to make data storage more efficient by arranging it in a noncontiguous manner. The duality of the technique's name is a wink at the idea of arranging her textiles as a metaphor to the arrangement of her memories as a part of the Venezuelan diaspora. The technique flirts with the idea of weaving, without being restricted by it and up until now, she has only used the technique for ephemeral art.

María Elena Pombo
María Elena Pombo is a Venezuelan artist based in New York working under the monicker Fragmentario with the intention to start conversations about time, culture and collective consciousness. Using plants to color fabric, she reimagines in a modern context the long-lost tradition of natural dyes, which was once prevalent across all culture.

Pombo studied fashion design at Parsons school of Design in New York and is a former designer at Michael Kors. Before this, she studied engineering in Venezuela and in France. This diverse formation informs her work, which is at the intersection of art and science.

She has worked on projects with HBO, BMW/MINI USA, Parsons School of Design, Lululemon and Melissa Shoes.

Pombo has shown her work in different countries in Europe, as well as Japan and the USA. She continuously teaches workshops on textile experimentation in unexpected venues, like a rice-cracker factory in Japan, a sustainable laundromat in Brooklyn, a film festival in Italy and SXSW in Texas. She is the creator of the curriculum for natural dyes classes at both the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

With her work, Pombo hopes to inspire others to question and create.



London Design Biennale
London Design Biennale is a global gathering of the world’s most ambitious and imaginative designers, curators and design institutions. The third edition will take place from 8 - 27 September 2020 at Somerset House.

Es Devlin has been named Artistic Director for 2020 and has chosen 'Resonance' as the theme, which over 50 countries and territories will respond to in their installations and presentations across the entirety of the site.

Capitalising on its first two editions, London Design Biennale 2020 will provoke debate and an engaging exchange of ideas about the universal impact of design in contemporary culture. It will explore design’s potential as a transformative global tool and show its power to inspire, inform and entertain.

Devlin explains, "We live in an age of hyper resonance, the consequences of which are both exhilarating and devastating. Everything we design and everything we produce resonates. Each idea we generate has the power to reach a mass digital audience undreamt of by previous generations, while the lifespans of the physical products we create often endure long beyond our own. Whether in the social media feeds of millions or in the bellies of marine animals, our ideas and our objects stick around.

In our global, digital era, design can instantly permeate borders and bridge cultures. It can positively alter behaviours and transform societies. Attitudes can evolve and lives can be improved when new ideas resonate and are adopted by extended communities.

At the same time, we are living through the ravaging resonance of mineral mining on our climate and data mining on our democracies. Ours is a period of profound social inequality combined with unprecedented algorithmic application of our personal data, often herding us towards digital echo chambers and ever more siloed communities.

Designers across the world have been engaged for decades devising responses to these phenomena: developing renewable energy technologies, electric vehicles, smart products and textiles, intelligent architecture, and potent graphic design and digital messaging, as well as physical and virtual experiences and environments that shift our emotions and alter our points of view.

Designers, thinkers, artists and makers have the power to influence and amaze their audiences into profound shifts of perspective, using the mass networks available to them to resonate ideas and practices to help build a more sustainable future.

However, we also face the intractable dilemma that we often find ourselves using resources to talk about the overconsumption of resources. Let’s face this challenge head on and commit to a sustainable legacy for each new work created for London Design Biennale.

As a community of designers approaching shared global challenges from culturally diverse viewpoints, the collective resonance of our ideas and our actions has the power to be truly transformative."


Participating Country (country, territory or city): Venezuela

Full Name:
María Elena Pombo

Organisation / Studio Name:


Job Title:

Designer or Curator:

Proposed Curator:
María Elena Pombo